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Villages and Spinning

“For the vast bulk of the population, as also the worker in the villages, a museum of industries is simply bewildering. They should have one universal industry. And by a process of exclusion, one arrives at the irresistible conclusion that the only universal industry for the millions is spinning and no other. That does not mean that other industries do not matter or are useless. Indeed, from the individual standpoint, any other industry would be more remunerative than spinning. Watch-making will be no doubt a most remunerative and fascinating industry. But how many can engage in it? Is it of any use to the millions of villagers? But if the villagers can reconstruct their home, begin to live again as their forefathers did, if they begin to make good use of their idle hours, all else, all the other industries will revive as a matter of course.. .
“. . . national resources must be concentrated upon the one industry of hand-spinning which all can take up now and besides which the vast majority can take up no other. And when the nation’s attention is thus rivetted on its revival, we will not have to be in search of a market for khaddar. The energy and money that have today to be devoted to popularizing khaddar will tomorrow be devoted to its greater manufacture and to its improvement. It is the national inertia that blinds us to the possibility of khaddar and thus paralyses our capacity for a grand national effort. It is not enough to say that hand-spinning is one of the industries to be revived. It is necessary to insist that it is the central industry that must engage our attention if we are to re-establish the village home.”
(Young India, 30-9-1926; 31:463-4.)
“It is this spinning of a constructive type that can bring swaraj and it is in this land that the charkha can sing its finest music.”
(Young India, 29-12-1927; 35:402.)
“The charkha understood intelligently can spin not only economic salvation but can also revolutionize our minds and hearts and demostrate to us that the non-violent approach to swaraj is the safest and the easiest. Though the progress may seem slow, it will prove, quickest in the long run.”
(Harijan, 2-1-1937; 64:195.)
“My intellect will continue to develop till the moment I die. The charkha is also the prop for my intellect but it does not stray into wrong paths. I have no time to see, hear or read pleasurable things. I discover Daridranarayana through the charkha and have vision of God. This is the way my intellect has been developing and will continue to develop all my life. The testing of a man is not complete till he dies. If at the moment of death a man’s intellect does not retain its brilliance I will say that he has not succeeded. . .
“I am not yet able to say where the limits of the constructive programme lie. The instance of the clay image shows only this. In the constructive programme we have all-round development. The charkha is a mantra. When I see those who ply the charkha discouraged, I am baffled.”
(Speech at Gandhi Seva Sangh meeting, 20-4-1937; 65:126-127.)
“People may say I am mad in saying that I wish to die with the charkha in my hand. I do not wish to die holding a string of beads. For concentration the charkha is my beads. God appears to me in thousands of forms. Sometimes I see him in the charkha, sometimes in Hindu-Muslim unity, sometimes in the eradication of untouchability. I move as my feeling draws me. When I wish to enter a room in an institution, I do so and I feel there the presence of God. In the Gita God has said that He looks to the well-being of those who worship Him. You must be firm in this faith if you have understood me.”
(Ibid, 65:133-134.)
“I repeat that if untouchability lives, Hinduism and with it India dies. Is that not a programme worth living for, dying for? And the spinning-wheel whose every turn brings India nearer her destiny? Surely it can fully occupy every day of every Congressman. And the wheel being the centre of our solar system it includes all the planets in the shape of village industries. . .
“. . . The wheel brings us at once to the emancipation of India’s manhood, kisans, labourers and all those who are weary and heavyladen. If this all-inclusive and mighty programme is not understood and appreciated by Congressmen they do not know the A B C of non-violence nor do they know the elements of C.D.”
(Statement to the press, Sevagram, 28-10-1941; 75:61-62.)
“My idea is that in a well-organized village one person should suffice. For example, one worker may devote two hours to taking in yarn, distributing slivers and spinning tools, and sales of khadi; village industry work might take even less, and the remainder of the time he could give to village uplift and general education. This has not till now been possible because the khadi workers’ time has been devoted to teaching people how to spin, etc. But now the time has come when khadi and village products, locally produced, must also be locally absorbed. In that case one person will be able to do all the work. Today it suffices to say that all this work is complementary—and must become one as far as possible. The amalgamation cannot be imposed; it must be a natural growth. I do not, I cannot, apportion any blame to anyone for the existing position. Our plans have progressed as far as our intelligence and experience could have taken them. The creation of khadi vidyalayas is meant to expand and improve the technique of work. We shall learn from them how all departments of village work can be amalgamated.”
(Harijan, 31-5-1942; 76:38.)
“If we are able to adopt the charkha intelligently we can revive the entire economic life of our villages once more.”
(Speech at All India Spinners’ Association, Sevagram, 1-9-1944; 78:66.)
“Today we are not really able to help the villagers. By offering the spinners three, four, six or eight annas I comfort myself with the belief that I have given them a livelihood. But it amounts to nothing more than a dole, for the work that I am providing them is not of a permanent nature. In case we get control of the State in our hands and by that means close all mills, it may perhaps then be possible to provide them permanent work. But today I cannot hide from them the truth that I have been only trying to fill their idle hours. If I have to provide them with some money I shall teach them other crafts also. I shall fully acquaint them with the present economic situation and educate them in this regard. No doubt I would wish to give work to every spinner who comes seeking it. But I shall not send the khadi thus produced to Bombay. I shall ask the workers to sell it in the neighbouring villages. But this is not enough. I must investigate what work other than spinning can be provided to them in the village. Only by revising the entire economic life of the village can our work become permanent. Whether for villagers or for us, I agree, cities will always have some sort of attraction. Nevertheless we shall be free from our present day city life: We shall show how in contrast to the cities more amenities can be provided in the villages. But if we merely go on sending to Bombay the khadi produced in the village, this object can never be accomplished, however high a wage we may pay to the village spinners. . .
“… I would explain to the people that they could not get khadi like mill-cloth. I would try to bring it home to them that if khadi is dearer the extra money goes to the villager, his family and to the village, and that this provides security to the economy of the village. I would explain to them the moral aspect as well. Besides, I would teach them other methods of earning in the village. I have now given up the idea that villagers can earn their living through doing khadi work alone.”
(Discussion with Shrikrishnadas Jaju, 12-10-1944; 78-185-87.)
“I have distinguished other village industries from khadi and called them planets and the charkha or the spinning-wheel the sun. As a matter of fact there is no real reason for such a distinction, for khadi is also a village industry. But it has acquired a special position, and it is because of this special position which it has acquired that we can now talk about the other village industries.
“Today we are not required to demonstrate the special position acquired by khadi but we are required to discover ways and means of putting it and other village industries on a firm footing.
“One of the ways is to resort to centralized production of necessities through machinery worked by power and requiring the minimum of human labour. This results in increasing the number of the rich few and making it a dharma to multiply the people’s wants. Even if all such centralized industries were to be State-owned, it would make no difference to me. For the obligation to increase wants will not only not decrease, but may be strengthened where such industries are owned by the State. Only the task of increasing wants will pass from the hands of small capitalists to the bigger capitalists, or the State, whose action will secure the seal of public support. This is how things are going in England and America. I am purposely leaving out Russia; because their work is still continuing, I shall not at this stage dare to assess the result. I hope that Russia will produce something unique. But I must confess that I have my doubts whether it will truly succeed. I shall consider it a great success if, through it, all the wealth really goes into the hands of the poor, and intellectual and personal freedom is at the same time secured. In that case I will have to revise my present concept of ahimsa.
“Now I come to the main point. In England and America, machinery rules supreme. On the contrary, in India we have village industries, symbolizing the resurgence of human labour. In the West, a handful of persons with the aid of mechanical power rule over others. In India, on the other hand, the great task of bringing out what is best in every individual is being attempted by the A.I.S.A., A.I.V.I.A. and other allied institutions. From this point of view the growth of Western civilization seems to be an easy thing, but to develop and organize the latent capacities of individuals through village industries appears to be a very difficult task.
“Looking at it from another point of view, it may be said that, for a handful of men to rule over other men with the aid of steam and other power will be harmful in the end, as it is bound to multiply injustice. By using the human power available to us by the million, injustice is reduced. And there is no room for failure. For here, along with human power, we rely on divine Power. In the other method, no value is attached to divine Power. In short, if in the case of village industries we do not truly obtain God’s help, we are bound to fail. The Western method only appears to be successful, but in truth there is nothing but failure in it. For it destroys the will to work.”
(Pyarelal Papers. Also Gram Udyog Patrika, June, 1945, Part-I, pp. 344-5; 80:152-153.)
“The weavers live in the cities today. The businessman exploits them and keeps them dependent on him. If the people Government could supply them with all the yarn they require it would simplify things for them and put their vocation on a stable basis. They would not then need to live in the cities. . .
“. . . The villagers should develop such a high degree of skill that articles prepared by them will command a ready market outside. When our villages are fully developed there will be no dearth in them of men with a high degree of skill and artistic talent. There will be village poets, village artists, village architects, linguists and research workers. In short, there will be nothing in life worth having which will not be had in the villages. Today the villages are barren and desolate and are like dung-heaps. Tomorrow they will be like beautiful gardens and it would be difficult to deceive the people there. . .
“. . . The reconstruction of the villages should be organized not on a temporary but on a permanent basis.”
(Harijan, 10-11-1946; 86:58-59.)
“I find that talk of khadi and village industries does not interest people any more. Here I am sitting in the capital. Refugees are lying all round shelterless and shivering. Thousands are pouring in every day. How long will you feed them without giving them any work? I am sure everyone will remember this old man one day when it is realized that India has no alternative except to develop village industries. Any government formed by any party—Congress, Socialist or Communist—will be forced to accept this truth. We do not realize this today, but we shall realize it after we stumble in our attempts to compete with America or Russia.”
(Dilhiman Gandhiji, I, 296, 17-11-1947; 90:57.)
“. . . what I want is that the music of the charkha should be heard in every home and no cloth except khadi should be seen anywhere. If this happened, the poverty prevailing in the villages would disappear.”
(Prarthana Pravachan-II, 189-192; 90:207.)

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